Bulletin #6 – NREL Visit, UFTO Meeting, Sandia, Los Alamos

UFTO Bulletin #6

March 21, 1995

To: UFTO Subscribers

. . in this issue: . . . . . . . . .

NREL Visit, UFTO Meeting, Sandia, Los Alamos

1. On Thursday March 9, we had an all day nonstop series of follow-up presentations and discussions with NREL staff, on all aspects of their programs. Everyone found the day to be very valuable, including the NREL folks, who appreciated the chance to present their work and to learn a bit more about what the industry is up to. Our group was the first of its kind that NREL had ever encountered, and the sessions gave them some important new perspectives.

2. On Friday 3/10, we had our own group meeting, to discuss the UFTO program and ways it could be made more effective. Every UFTO member utility was represented except for Wisconsin Electric (Graham Siegel made his own visit to NREL a few weeks ago.) A draft “Proceedings” is attached, subject to any comments that attendees might want to offer. (Please send me comments ASAP, along with copies of your notes or “trip report” if any!).

3. The next week, I went to Sandia and Los Alamos for more “drinks from a fire hose”. Once again, there appears to be some very exciting opportunities for utilities in what these labs are doing, and a strong interest on their part in getting closer to utilities.

A few highlights are outlined in an attachment. There are some very significant ground floor opportunities, some of which are quite new, unannounced, and time-sensitive.

4. One key issue keeps coming up. The labs want to know if we’re serious, and if there’s a real possibility that we (you) are prepared to do business with them in some concrete way, if the right kind of technology opportunity comes along. They’re understandably wary of all the time it takes for them to host visitors, unless there’s a reason to think something will come of it.

I’ve indicated that we (you) are interested, motivated, and serious, and that if the technology is right, “anything is possible,” ranging from substantial funding under a Crada or work for others agreement, to hosting demos, to investments in new ventures.

As you review the various “deals” I report to you, be thinking not only if the technology is interesting, but also what kinds of resources you’d be prepared to bring to the table, and what kind of business arrangement you’d want. Let’s show the labs we mean business.

PS: If any of you are looking for a better way than Dialog to search for technology information, particularly from government sources, give me a call. I’ve got a recommendation for you.

NOTE: The current domestic UFTO membership comprises approximately 1/6 of the total U.S. electric utility industry! And the international participation amounts to about 1/7 of the U.S. industry.

(Thanks to Janie Farrington at PSI/Cinergy for the figures.)



Ashland Oil has demonstrated proof of concept in their labs, and has funding committed for a production installation. What’s missing is the piece in the middle — the intermediate scale demonstration R&D. Sandia Labs has made a proposal to DOE/Fossil to fund the government side of a CRADA with Ashland, but with budget cuts, it’s possible the funds might not be available.

The technology makes it possible to convert low grade hydrocarbon feedstocks (or fossil fuels) directly into Hydrogen and Carbon Monoxide (separate streams!) while sequestering impurities, even producing elemental sulfur. There is no stack, and no emissions.

Ashland wants this technology for its refineries, to deal with the sour crude it often has to deal with, to produce hydrogen, and to handle refinery “bottoms”, which are a costly disposal headache.

As a Hydrogen producer, HYMELT is estimated to be 30% cheaper than steam reforming, when using the same feedstock, i.e. fuel gas. It is much cheaper still, when the cost of the feedstock is removed, and a waste stream is used instead.

In case DOE doesn’t come up with the money, Ashland has asked Sandia to begin looking discretely for a partner interested in other fields of use, and who could put up $800k/year for 3 years, leveraging the many $ millions that Ashland has spent and committed.

We are the first to hear this story. Please handle with discretion, and do not discuss outside your company.

Contact is Al Sylwester, Sandia Tel # 505-844-8151

or call me

Ed Beardsworth 415-328-5670


Diamond Like Coatings (DLC) on Large Objects

with Plasma Source Ion Implantation.


Based on an invention at the Univ of Wisc from the early 80’s, Los Alamos has developed the capability to cost-effectively put DLC on large objects of arbitrary shape without preheating, and with a high degree of intrinsic adherence. It is the subject of a $14 million crada with GM for automotive applications.

DLC has been viewed almost entirely as a means to prevent wear . However, Los Alamos recently published a paper showing a many-fold improvement in corrosion resistance (done for a neutrino detection experiment!).

This could fulfill a personal vision of mine of many years that diamond coatings would be a major breakthru for turbine blades, or any component subject to wear or corrosion. The only utility interest to date has been by EPRI, to prevent fouling of nuclear power plant venturis, but funding isn’t available!

Los Alamos hadn’t been thinking in terms of other utility industry applications until we spoke. A joint development effort with utilities, Lawrence Berkeley Lab and possibly a vendor would be a brand new initiative. Los Alamos is already active in setting up “vertical consortia” to apply this technology in other industries, and would be very interested in working with us.

Please call me if you’re interested in pursuing this.

Ed Beardsworth 415-328-5670



Both Sandia and Los Alamos seem to have a hand in this program to build a SMES unit that would be about 10x larger than Superconductivity, Inc.’s unit, and smaller than the B&W/Anchorage device. The application is Power Quality for industrial customers, and/or at the substation level — on the order of 10’s of MW for seconds. This is seen as a development project, not a research one, with the goal to learn if such a device is the solution to an industry problem.

CRADA negotiations are underway with one utility already, however there may be (and I feel there ought to be) a way for other utilities to participate, if only by providing modest funding for a seat at the table.

Please call me if you’re interested in pursuing this.

Ed Beardsworth 415-328-5670


PEM Fuel Cell


Los Alamos has the oldest ongoing program in PEM, and some key breakthroughs in lowering the cost (by reducing the Pt catalyst requirement, and new designs and fabrication methods), and overcoming sensitivity to impurities. They also are working with an unidentified major company who’s supplying a new membrane, different from Dupont or Dow’s, and less expensive.

They believe PEM can “leapfrog” the high temperature fuel cell technologies (MC, SO) in stationary applications, which will be much easier than mobile ones (the conventional view of where PEMs belong). At least 10-15 companies large and small are working on PEM in one form or another (not just Ballard!). Los Alamos has lab units at 100 sq. cm. reliably demonstrating their technology.

There is no utility “user group” for PEM, and one is needed. We can be instrumental in forming one with Los Alamos, the other labs, and their other industrial partners. There’s also the obvious opportunity to stake out a piece of this very interesting nontraditional approach to fuel cell technology.

This group was initially wary of spending time on visitors unless it could lead to something. After I described the strategic interest utilities have in fuel cells and the new kinds of business initiatives utilities are taking, the PI offered to prepare a brief discussion paper, outlining their ideas and how utilities could participate.

Please call me if you’re interested in pursuing this, and want a copy of the paper when I receive it. Ed Beardsworth 415-328-5670


Catalytic Reduction of NOx

by microwave assisted chemistry


Los Alamos has demonstrated at lab scale a means to remove NOx from a simulated gas stream, and need to implement it at a utility or factory/process that generates NOx.

Carbonaceous material first adsorbs the NOx, and then the bed is purged by heating it with microwaves with O2 (an adsorb/desorb cycle).

One interesting implication– with this capability to remove NOx, it may be possible to operate boilers at higher temperature, for better overall optimal performance.

This was internally funded at the lab, and DOE/Fossil is interested.

Contact is Ed Joyce, 505-665-2964

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